Writing and blogging. The two came together for me this afternoon in the most serendipitous way. Arriving at writing group, still undecided about this week’s blog topic, I couldn’t believe my luck when hugely successful Perth food blogger, Michelle, presented our group with a blogging workshop. And by successful, we’re talking 5,100 Twitter followers, 4,200 Instagram followers 2,165 Facebook followers and (as I understand) around 10,000 blog followers, all under her handle: foodie cravings.
I joined Karrinyup Writers Group in August 2016, but it has been around since my nightclubbing days (i.e. nearly half my life). It offers in-house writing competitions, workshops, guest speakers etc, and is a welcoming and friendly group of diverse individuals. Active members are capped at twenty, most of whom turn up each week. But why would a food blogger appear at a writer’s group?
Michelle began her food blog around six years ago as a hobby. In 2017, with a successful social media presence, a business to run (Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar in Mt Lawley, Perth) and a growing family, her strategy to ensure the blog didn’t fizzle out under the increased work load has paid off.
That’s where the serendipity lies. The president of our writing group, Tania Connolly, is a freelance writer based in Perth. Some of this freelance work involves writing for Michelle’s blog. To see one of the posts Tania wrote for Michelle’s site, click here.
In fact, Michelle has a few people writing for her, which she prefers over guest blogging. This way, she has more control over the content and personally edits each post written by her team. She says,
Your voice is what attracts people to your blog, and traffic to your blog stops when you don’t use your own voice. Readers are connecting with you, not a website.
Another important strategy is to post different content on each of your social media channels so that the same thing isn’t re-appearing across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blog posts etc, or at the very least, schedule them to appear on different days or times. Her blog however is always published across all social media platforms (using different time frames). She recommended the use of CoSchedule for the scheduling process.
If your blog following is anything like mine (small, but growing), it’s comforting to know that Michelle also started out small. First with family and friends, then their family and friends and so on. But to reach the widest possible audience you will need to understand SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). She recommended the use of a WordPress Plugin called Yoast SEO. However, this plugin works with WordPress.Org rather than WordPress.Com (have a look at this link if you’re not sure what the difference between those is). The Yoast plugin reviews your blog post before it is published and tells you what you need to change to ensure it is optimised by search engines, thereby increasing the chance each post (among the millions out there) will be found by users searching the internet. A recommendation by Maja Katanic of Tempest Thoughts was to take Kate Toon’s 10-day SEO Challenge.
I agree with Michelle’s advice that of all social media platforms, blogging can be the most time consuming – due to the writing and editing that is required in order to provide quality content. And it’s the content that keeps your readers engaged and sharing your posts. I won’t tell you how late I stayed up writing this particular ‘quality content’, but therein lies Michelle’s next piece of advice: Write your blog post as soon as possible after an event or idea. For Michelle, this is usually on the phone after a dining experience, which she then types into her blog and edits, adding photos etc. As I type this, Michelle’s words from this afternoon’s workshop are still in my ears and my notes are fresh. I might have bags under my eyes tomorrow, but it will be worth it.
If you’ve not taken up blogging yet but are thinking about it, a good starting point is to consider what your reasons are for blogging, then work out your strategy. Are you just passionate about a subject (writing, reading, food etc) that you want to share? Or do you want to make money from it? (If so, have a look at ProBlogger.com.) Do you wish to profile yourself, showcasing your writing skills or maybe a photography portfolio in the hope it will lead to work assignments, or gain the attention of others in your industry? Answers to these basic questions will guide the style of your site, the monetary investment you put into it, or the time taken to research and implement your blog.
Newsletters. Often touted as a necessity, in Michelle’s case she finds them time consuming, and probably not the best return on her energy invested (based on the number of email followers versus the number of blog followers). In the writing industry, newsletters are perhaps more relevant. Michelle suggested that in order to make a newsletter worthwhile, you need to deliver additional content which doesn’t appear on your blog. Or provide giveaways (books, stationery etc). Maybe even share snippets of an upcoming book, or give subscribers an opportunity to contribute to your writing process – suggesting names for characters etc.
As for blogging platforms, Michelle recommended WordPress. It’s easy to use and as she said, even Google doesn’t prioritise their blogging platform in the search rankings. An average blog post contains 600 to 800 words (this post is 1,090 words).
I found Michelle’s comments on Instagram interesting. Increasingly, people are choosing this platform to communicate with followers rather than keeping a blog. However, she reiterated what I’ve often heard, which is that your blog is your ‘real estate’. It belongs to you and will still be there when other platforms come and go, or change the rules. Also, an Instagram post is more likely to get lost in someone’s feed, or when searched for later. People are less likely to stumble across an Instagram post that was written months or years ago, than they will a blog post on a website.
Remember the statistics I mentioned at the top of the article (5,100 Twitter, 4,200 Instagram, 2,165 Facebook, and 10,000 Blog followers)? Don’t be discouraged! Michelle has been doing this for six years and has a marketing background (and a passion for food!) Start slow, find fellow tribe members, and keep learning.
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com (free images provided under Creative Commons)